Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Share Your Genealogy and Collaborate with Relatives Online Using PhpGedView by John Finlay

13 Oct 2007

Introduction of Speaker by Brian Cooper
Main Presentation: John Finlay – Share Your Genealogy and Collaborate with Relatives Online Using PhpGedView
John Finlay graduated from BYU with a degree in Computer Engineering. He worked in the Information Technology industry for several years, developing systems for digital archives and preservation. He is currently a full-time faculty member teaching at Neumont University. In the summer of 2002, John created PhpGedView as an open source genealogy application. If you haven’t heard of Open Source, it means that the code for the program is made freely available to anyone who wants to look at it. You might compare it to the difference between sharing the sources of your family history research, or just sharing your conclusions. If your sources are open and available for review and update, other researchers can assist in the work and it can progress forward much faster than if only one person or group is working on it. PhpGedView is currently the largest and most active Open Source genealogy application. John is married to Melissa Corn Finlay, who holds a degree in genealogy and family history. They reside in South Jordan, Utah and have 5 children.

John Finlay – Share Your Genealogy and Collaborate with Relatives Online Using PhpGedView

There are a lot of new and exciting things like FamilySearch that are coming available. It’s always good to remember why we are doing it. This technology is to help us to remember our ancestors, those that came before us and are such a part of us.

How many of you have ever had to share GEDCOM files before? How many of you enjoy doing that process when you were doing? In general works this you have someone is maybe in Utah and another person in Washington, D.C. you are both relatives working on the same genealogy line. To share your data you have to send GEDCOM files back and forth. Once you do that you have to import it and take all the people and match theirs with yours and merge everything together. Doing that takes a lot of time. You could have hundred of people duplicated and it takes hours to clean up. It’s a mess. When I was working on PhpGedView this was one of the problems we wanted to solve. How can we make the process of sharing our data and working together better?

How many of you post your genealogy on a website? Not as many that share GEDCOMs but still quit a few. The advantages of that are you get people who are related, such as cousins. When people put it online people can search Google and find you.

How do you traditionally share your genealogy on the internet.
You – Genealogy application – Export HTML files – Upload to a Web Server – On the Internet – where you family can find them. The big problem here is if anyone has updates, and you will have updates, they have to send them back to you and you then have to start the whole process over again. This was another problem we wanted to address. How can we make this whole process of sharing your genealogy on the internet easier.

What is PhpGedView?
PhpGedView (PGV) is an internet based genealogy program that you can use to:
-setup your own genealogy website
-edit your data online
-collaborate with people working on the same family lines
-also great for surname studies or locality studies

It is an internet genealogy program it’s meant to be a full replacement of your desktop application. You set it up on a website. All you have to do is upload your GEDCOM file to it and it automatically shares your data on the internet in an editable and collaborative fashion. I will put my genealogy up there and its automatically for search engines and everyone to come find. I can give usernames and passwords to my relatives who also can work with the exact same data.

A lot of people also like to use it for surname studies or locality studies. A surname study is when you are doing all the Finlay’s for example or all the Finlay’s in a certain area, or maybe you are doing you small home town you grew up in. You could record all the people in that town and record all of their lives.

PGV can do all of the things that a typical desktop genealogy program can do, but it runs over the internet. It has all the sources capabilities and you can create all the reports you are used to having with your traditional program. It imports and exports GEDCOM files, so it is compatible with other genealogy software.

You don’t have to completely give away your traditional software if you want to use this. A lot of people still use it to share their genealogy online and they still do all their editing or stuff on PAF or tradition legacy program. You can continue to do it that way.

PGV Viewing Features
-PGV includes standard genealogy charts such as pedigree, descendant and family group.
-It also has lists, calendars, PDF reports, and several other charts.
-PGV supports photos, audio, and many other types of media.

Collaborative Scenario
-Suppose you have Aunt Edna who lives in New York working on her favorite family lines.
-Uncle Kobi lives in Israel and works on his favorite people.
-Leonid in St. Petersburg updates his part of the family
-You live in Utah and work on your favorite lines
-Give Aunt Edna, Uncle Kobi and Leonid the ability to edit online
-They keep their favorite lines up to date
-You keep the ability to review new data before it goes live on your site.

You would just give Aunt Edna, Uncle Kobi and Leonid a PGV username and password, they can come to your website, log in and edit and work the data directly online. I use these international countries because PhpGedView has full multi-lingual support. It supports Hebrew, it supports Russian, it supports Sweden and German. It supports 25 different languages that you can use. I recently helped someone set up a website; they were doing a Polish family reunion. One of the big things he was interested in was that it supports the Polish language so all his Polish relatives could participate.

So they are all working online on their data. There is no sharing GEDCOM files and matching and merging and all that stuff. They can all work together on this data. All of the editing stuff that goes in there you can set it up so you have review capabilities. Everything that they put on is not made public immediately. First it goes to a holding area. You will get an email notification that will say Hey they made this change. You can go in and look at it, edit it to meet your standards or you can accept it or reject it if you don’t agree with it. Some people don’t want that and they have everyone have full editing capabilities and that is completely possible. So it is up to you how you want to handle that.

Say you have relatives you trust doing genealogy and others you are not so comfortable because maybe they are not so good at doing sources yet. You can give some the ability to automatically enter their data and it goes public and you can give others the ability to be peer reviewed first before it goes public.

PHP is actually the program language that this was written in. When I created the program it was common in the industry if you were using PHP language to prefix it with the application PHP. That is where the PHP comes from most of the time now I abbreviate it to PGV. It also started out as a GEDCOM viewer so that’s how the name came about. But now it is a full featured way to edit you genealogy online. It stands for personal homepage tools, basically a programming language.
Brian mentioned that it is open sourced. Part of being open sourced means anyone in the world can help me work on it. I stated this as open sourced hoping that other people would help me develop it. I don’t get paid to work on this. I am a computer facility member at Neumont University, my day job is that I stand up and teach people how to program computers. Then I do this on the side. But I have people all over the world helping me to do this. I have people in Israel, France, Great Britain, four or five here in the United States. It’s been a very interesting and exciting thing not only to work with other programs around the world but other genealogists around the world. We have a great international community of people around the world all dedicated to helping this program succeed.

How PhpGedView simplifies Collaboration
Remember before how you had to take all these steps to get on the internet. Now all you have to do is put your GEDCOM file, your genealogy on a server with PhpGedView running on it. That web server with PhpGedView automatically makes it available. What you do is work with your data on the internet. Because it is on the internet you family can also log in and work with it on the internet and also the world can see it.

Privacy Settings
-PGV has many privacy functions built into it to protect personal information about living people.
-The default privacy settings will hide the names and details of living people from users who are not logged into the site.
-These privacy features can be adjusted by site administrators to meet their desired level of privacy.

You will notice that the world has a privacy filter on there. So all of you private data is not public to the world. So if you went to my website and tried to find me you could find me, I am a living person and privacy laws prevent us from sharing that. You have full privacy controls. Some people don’t want the world to find anything. They say you have to be logged into find anything. Other people say I don’t want any of my sources viewable to the public. I want all those kept private until they log in. You have full privacy control and control data once it’s up there and what people can see.

-PGV can be downloaded for free from the http://www.phpgedview.net website.
-It requires that you have some web-space that supports the programming language PHP and it will take some technical knowledge to set it up.
-There are also several hosting services that can set it up for you for a nominal fee.

Finlay Family Genealogy - http://finlayfamily.org/genealogy
You have full multi-media support you can upload pictures, documents and stories, full things video and sound files. Cool things about your family members that people like. One person sent me a note and said thank you for helping me help my uninterested family members become interested in genealogy again. Because they have the ability to share all this rich media with them.

The homepage is completely customizable you can change the way things are laid out. It allows you to save a list of favorites, like bookmarks, people that are your favorite people. It allows you to keep multiple GEDCOMs so if you are working on, say you divided up your family line into multiple files you can share them with different family trees. The look and feel of the homepage is also totally customizable. There are several themes you can use. If you know some HTML you can also change it to how you want it.

On the top of the homepage are icons one is to change the language it is displayed in. Hebrew is interesting because it is read from right to left. You have to switch everything around. As an administrator I can choose which language I want. I also has full support for entering the names of people in multiple character sets. If you have a Russian relative they will have a Russian name and then they will have a Romanized name. You would spell one in the Russian alphabet and then another in the English alphabet so you can record all of those names.

Clicking on any name will send you to the details on that person. You could see all his events, census details, sources. There is also full LDS support. The sources look very similar to what you do in PAF. You can attach a source to any fact or any person, and see a list of all those attached to the source afterwards.

There is a vanity counter on each page so you can see which of your ancestors is the most popular. You can search for people by their RIN number if you want or by name. The album is where you will see their multimedia. You can see all their close relatives and details on those. You can see a Google map of all of his events. There are a variety of charts you can look at. On the pedigree chart you can change the number of generations to view.

What people were very interested in when we were developing it was to see more information on it at a time. If you are researching something you generally want to jump back and forth between the data and see things. If you are researching the father you often want to see information on the children, dates, and possible locations for things you are going to research. One of the things you can do is on any of the boxes there is a zoom. You can expand his box and it fills in all of his details so you can see it right there. All of the boxes and charts have that capability.

The reports are printable quality you can do them in HTML you can have the full record of his life and print it out. The same way you could from your regular application. There are templates; it is a new thing I have been working on. When you log in you will get edit options on the page. You will see whatever features you have enabled for this option. For the templates we have the Research Assistant. It is designed to help you track and manage the research you are doing about a relative. We have several of the common search engines out there you can choose what data that you want to include in the search. It will automatically do the search for you on Ancestry or FamilySearch, etc. You can keep a research log you can decide what task you are doing and assign a task to a particular researcher, then you can attach it to a source. You can also attach multiple people to the task – say his whole family for the census. It helps you organize your research that way.

Once you have created a Research Task you can then choose a form you want to enter your data in. This is a very source orientated way to enter your data. The Census Form or template has all the fields that you would normally see on a census. Once you fill it out it will compare it against his record and help you to automatically choose some facts that you should probably add for him. From a census records we learn a lot of things about them, names, birth place, parents’ name, and their parents’ birth place. I can add immediately all the facts that comes from this source citation.

When you enter dates it will correct them to the right format. You can search for places to enter by your place list. When you add facts from the form or templates it will automatically add the source citation. When you add new information it will show up as blue. When you change something on a person’s data it will show up as red. Now you can choose to approve or accept the changes made to your database or undo and deny them. If you decide to remove facts afterwards you can just delete them. If you are signed in as an administrator you can deny all the changes you just made if you want to.
You have the option to even remove the Research Assistant if you don’t want it. You can pick and choose with features you have on your database. On the Individual List you can sort by any column in it. You can sort by birth or death date or name or places. You can also sort by last changed. If you want to know all the recent charges just sort on that column and you can see the last person with information changed.

You can import your GEDCOM file from PAF to PhpGedView or download from PGV to PAF. We have taken great care that the GEDCOM capabilities are the best. If you have some weird tag in there it will not be removed it just might not show it. You can keep as many GEDCOM files as you want on your database. You can download all of a GEDCOM or part using the Family Tree Clippings Cart. You can take clippings of your family tree and download parts of them.

Every page has a help icon on it. If you are confused and you click on the icon it will tell you about that page. Some items have help icons on them and they will them you what that item does. There is a lot of online help. Since this is open sources all the documentation is user contributed. So it is other users like your self helping to write the documentation for this. There is a Wiki to help people to that. You will find a users guide there. You can search through the entire users guide. A lot of this documentation has been translated into other languages.

You cannot search PhpGedView for other people’s sites; it is not a global site. You can only search in one person’s site with their unique URL for the individuals that they have. If you do a Google search it will pull it up if it is in a PhpGedView database on the web. I have had people use PGV with 50mgs of data – about 60,000 people, theoretically it can handle as large as you have.

Usually you will have to pay for a hosting service about $3-4 a month. An example is X-Mission in Salt Lake you can rent a hosting site from them for about $5.00 a month. Then you just load these files a GEDCOM and it goes. There are hosting services that will do it for you. There are four of them right now; they run about $7.00 a month. The links are on our site http://www.phpgedview.net/ The free ones are only for a couple hundred people. A hosting service will set everything up for you, you just send them a GEDCOM.

If you just want to see how it works you can download a demo and version and it will work on your computer. It will run like it’s a website on your computer. No one else will see it and once you shut down your computer it will turn off, but it will allow you to play with all the features and such. You can even put your own data into it, it comes already with some data in it.

Why would we go with this instead of waiting for New FamilySearch? I have been participating in the betas for new FamilySearch and they have done a great job. NFS has a lot of good features that are new in it. The reason I am not going to go to NFS for all of my data is privacy control. I can’t say don’t share this person with other people, even if he is dead. I don’t have that control at FamilySearch. Their source citation stuff is still a bit behind. They are going to work on that though. Another thing is that at least for the next couple of years only everything in NFS is LDS access. So if you have relatives that are out there and they are not LDS they will not be able to access it for a couple more years.

I also like to control the presentation of it. The way I present my family is import to me online. With FamilySearch you only have one way to do that. Finally NFS does not have any multimedia support. And they have no plans to every add that.

Now like I said I love what FamilySearch is doing, they are doing great work. They talked about how Ancestral Quest, Legacy, RootsMagic are going to work with NFS. I have also been in on a lot of those meetings. We are also looking to integrate with NFS. We will be integrating differently than those programs. What we are going to do is allow you, if you have already have a PhpGedView website, to link people in FamilySearch to your data it will automatically pull that data over and connect them up and keep them linked and synchronized between NFS and PhpGedView.

One of the goals of NFS is to not have duplicate people and to put the whole world into one big family tree. I think that is a great goal and I’m glad that the Church and FamilySearch is working on that. But when I want to work with my data I am interested in my people. Those are the reason I am not going with that but you might find it works for you.

If you choose to do everything online and work with multiple users at one time a lot of people are not comfortable doing that yet. You are fully welcome to continue to use PAF or your traditional program for that. Then you would upload your GEDCOM file when you want to update the site. It’s very easy. It will just replace what is up there and it won’t duplicate anything.

Now that other programs are use to these other options I have already been approached by Legacy to add integration. The same integration they will have with FamilySearch they will have with PhpGedView.

If you go into Google to search someone using PhpGedView you would type the name followed by PhpGedView and it will find it anyone is using the program working on your line. [Ezekiel Johnson PhpGedView] You could contact people and see if you can collaborate with them.

Demonstrated how to add multi-media, it supports all the formats you can normally put on a website. Demonstrated various charts on the program. There are backup capabilities with the program. It includes all your uses and media files, etc. not just the GEDCOM file.

You can also link people onto someone else’s site that is using PhpGedView or NFS. It will show that this person found is also in these other places. There are a lot of people looking at the code so they will find if there are security breaches. In their history they have had two security breaches and it was found and a patch was given within the day. This is one of the most secure programs out there because of that. It’s been over two years since they had any major security problems. You can also make a demo CD of your site and give it to family members.

When changes have been made my other uses you will be sent an email notification of the changes. There is also an option to have it show up on the homepage. It will list all the changes that have been made that need to be accepted. You can also show recent changes.

There is an option feature to add Message Forums. It allows people to post messages. If you want to have a family discussion about people or your genealogy you can enable the message forums. It works like any other message forums.

You can merge two people files together in the program but it is easiest to do it from within PAF or your other computer software, then upload it to the site.

There are tutorials online in the helps to walk you through the program but they are not connected to a live site – that is a great suggestion to have one.

There are 30 active contributors to the program but they are not all developers, a lot of them are translators. In any given week there are about 5 people submitting code, in a month about 10-12. Every quarter I get a group of students that work on this program. I will have them do different features. This quarter I am having them do an advanced search. The students also have to learn this they have 10 weeks to learn PHP, the architecture of the program; it’s a great learning experience for these students. Genealogy is one of the most complicated things from a computer science prospective but it is also someone can easily know. I know I can be related to people once you have to do that in computer science it is a fascinating problem.

I have been asked if I will do classes and I would be happy to set them up and have myself or one of my students teach them.

This presentation is available on DVDs #127 for UVPAFUG members to borrow or purchase.

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